If you do this wine thing for a living at some stage you will have to take notes.  When I started I used to write notes on every bottle opened, everything tasted.  This is tedious after a while, and you look like a geek in restaurants.  And anywhere else to be honest.  So after a while I went by memory and I had a good theory that worked: if a wine was vile, faulty, badly made or similar I’d remember it.  If it was exceptional, stylish, classy, well made, etc, etc: I’d remember it.  Anything I didn’t remember would be passable.

This still holds true: I can still remember tasting 1927 Taylor nine years ago.  I can tell you where I was to the nearest foot.  Ditto 1949 Gruaud-Larose.  Both positive, and 1927 Taylor remains in my top five all-timers.  On the negative side I can still remember, with geographical position, a knackered 1998 Bienvenues-Batard, Leflaive in 2003 and corked 1964 Petrus in the same year.  And the bigshots that didn’t notice…

I do take notes when tasting wines where they are made.  This is usually in Bordeaux or Burgundy, and usually cask samples being shown ahead of an en-primeur release.  Next month 2008 Burgundy; last April 2008 Bordeaux.

Clive Coates writes an excellent article: Why Most Tasting Notes Are A Waste Of Space.  He’s spot on in many respects here but he misses a key point: the personal nature of taste.  I miss Clive’s notes on the most recent Burgundy vintage because his palate chimes with mine.  Moreover, I understand what he’s writing (whereas I find Parker, for instance, a long way from my palate in many cases and writing in a different language, American).

My notes make sense to me.  And they might to Mr Coates.  “Is it dancing?  Yes, gently.”  I reckon Mr Coates might actually be able to pick this one (it’s 2007 Chambolle, Amoureuses, Mugnier) but a long shot.  And it makes perfect sense to me (wine from this vineyard, les Amoureuses: the Lovers, should dance on the palate – it’s the test).  But it will be pretentious drabble to most.

And every now and again a wine is above mere words in the same way that many are above scores.  Mr Mugnier, maker of above-mentioned Chambolle, and a man with some genius quotes, says: “great wines do not need long notes”, and he’s right.  My note on the greatest Bordeaux that I have ever tasted from cask ends with the word “love”.  At was the only word that I could think of that reflected how the wine made me feel.

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